Wednesday, May 20, 2009

...Grey Gardens

They paved paradise... and you know the rest. Let me clarify: by "they" I mean my landlord, and by "paved" I mean mowed, but I'm still heavy-hearted this morning. See, I took it upon myself to tackle the backyard of my apartment building. That's right, there's a yard! I did a little neighborhood reconnaissance and learned that the growth hadn't been touched in at least three years, and the dingy, Fisher Price detritus was beginning to try my neighbors sense of taste - and patience. I spent a couple weeks bagging dead leaves, pruning vines, planting bulbs, and tackling the mint. Oh, the mint. I had no idea before I got into gardening, but mint has this Godzilla-lke tenacity and will take over every inch of growing space once you give it a chance. Just FYI, best to keep this stuff in a pot. 

I was, yes, proud of the work I did. And I loved that with a 

little work, the overgrown vines, dainty violets and proud dandelions came to look like the Secret Garden. Mission accomplished? Until this morning, when I went out to water the porch garden to discover the yard snipped and hacked to bits. 

From Secret Garden to... a poodle with an awkward haircut. Maybe this is a lesson to my ego, or to my horticultural vigilantism. And who knows, maybe my landlord has some epic landscaping plan or k

ickass vegetable garden in the works. And my story is nowhere near as heart-aching as Gayla 

Trail's city garden disillusionment (she also reflects on the sometimes nasty role of the ego in gardening). 

I'm glad I got to do a little foraging a couple weeks back when the pickin's were good. You've probably heard by now that those persistent little buggers, dandelions, offer an edible, nutritious, and abundant supply of greens. Early spring is the best time to hit these up, when the greens are more tender and sweeter. If you decide to snag your own wild dandelion greens, use ya head: look for small leaves unmunched by critters, avoid areas that have been sprayed (a well-manicured lawn/public park is likely laden with chemicals), and rinse them thouroughly before use. This "recipe" (unrecipe?) is a basic treatment for dandelion greens; it's fun to throw in anything else you can forage. In the case of what was in my backyard, I added some chives, mint, and violets. The flowers are edible, pretty, but add little more than a food-and-garden-nerd accent.

Sauteed Dandelion Greens

a handful of small dandelion greens, rinsed and dried

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar (or sherry- or white vinegar. I like the rice vinegar for its grassy flavor against the greens.)

salt and pepper to taste

Heat the water in a medium saute pan and add the greens. Cover and steam for about three minutes or until wilted. Add the oil and saute briefly (less than a minute), then stir in the vinegar, salt and pepper and any other garden add-ins and saute for a minute more. 

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